(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
E3 2018 gets underway this week and, with it, will undoubtedly bring a series of announcements that will make us cringe and cry out in anticipation in equal measure. E3 has a history of doing that to gamers… a long, long history. In fact, over the years, multi-billion dollar companies have shifted from some of the finest, most awe-inspiring announcements of their generation to reveals that, frankly, made you embarrassed to be a gamer. Here are the absolute best (and worst) of those announcements. Are you ready? I said ARE. YOU. READY?!?! *crickets*
Top 5 Greatest E3 Announcements of All Time
5) That GTA IV Tattoo (E3 2006)
Not every E3 announcement has to be all pomp and circumstance. Take EA President Peter Moore, who decided to announce Grand Theft Auto 4 would be heading to Xbox 360 in the best possible fashion: by getting the game’s logo inked over his skin. Sure, it was a fake tattoo but, for the sheer ridiculousness of it, it can’t be beaten.
Even better, it’s not the first time he’s pulled off such a feat, getting a Halo 2 release date tat on his right arm, which, remarkably is still there to this day. We’ll bet that’s an icebreaker at parties.
4) Sega Saturn announcement (E3 1995)
Now, a lot of people might see this, in hindsight, as one of the stupidest announcements ever. Sega, after all, announced an entire new console would be on sale… right at that very moment. Imagine Sony getting up on stage at E3 2018 and saying you can go out and buy a PS5 now and you’re pretty close to the scope of what occurred back in 1995.
Unfortunately, it backfired on Sega; retailers and consumers weren’t ready for that bombshell, and Sega Saturn was left to become an oddity of a footnote across the gaming landscape in the mid-‘90s. Still, at the time, this was hugely impressive, and indicative of just how surprising E3 could (and would) become.
3) Metal Gear Solid V on Xbox trailer (E3 2013)
Picture this: one of the biggest exclusive franchises (previously only playable on PlayStation) would not only drop, for my money, the single best trailer in E3 history–but do so at the press conference of your biggest rivals. That’s what Hideo Kojima and Konami chose to do back in 2013–and the reaction was electric.
Showing off not only the open-world gameplay, but a fantastic story trailer that lives long in the memory of every Metal Gear fan, Metal Gear Solid 5 would eventually be confirmed with a PlayStation trailer the very next day, but this moment confirmed something that would’ve been unthinkable a decade prior–MGS is on Xbox, for good. How’s that for an E3 moment?
2) Star Fox Zero had us on strings (E3 2015)
Now, Star Fox Zero may have been a flop for Nintendo, but their choice of announcement for the title was inspired–and showcased Nintendo’s abundance of creativity. Choosing to forgo the traditional conference, Ninty went the felt route and gave us a video of Reggie Fils-Aime, the dearly-departed Satoru Iwata, and the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto in puppet form.
It was inventive, it was funny, and (as Nintendo tend to do from time-to-time) left the rest of the competition in their dust. Watch it above: it’s so great that you’ll forget that (whisper it) Star Fox Zero was a bit rubbish.
1) Twilight Princess makes everyone go crazy (E3 2004)
Here it is: the E3 piece de resistance. The precursor for everything we’ve come to expect from E3. It’s also something developers cross their fingers and toes for in the hope they’ll get a reaction as tenth as incredible as the one The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess’ reveal got back in 2004.
You can take all your fancy showcases, celebrity endorsements and bored hosts and put them to one side: this is gaming. Hundreds of gamers were left hushed as a horse rode across some very familiar-looking landscapes until–finally–the iconic protagonist Link rocked up on-screen. The place went bananas–and its place in E3 folklore was confirmed.
Top 5 Worst E3 Announcements of All Time
5) James Cameron bored a crowd to death (E3 2009)
Ok, not literally–but it wasn’t far off. Celebrity endorsements are nothing new when it comes to E3, but this one wanted to have its cake and eat it. Upon the announcement of an Avatar movie tie-in game, James Cameron was wheeled out on-stage to reveal… well, nothing.
Ten excruciating minutes later, James Cameron was done–all we got was a title screen–and the rest of us were left wondering why we actually enjoyed games in the first place. Video games are meant to be fun, guys, and an elderly white director lecturing us on his movie was something no one wanted to see.
4) The bottom of an avatar’s shoe (E3 2009)
From one avatar, to another. E3 2009 was seemingly filled with mishaps, but none more so than the lukewarm reaction given at Microsoft’s conference. While showing off Kinect (or Project Natal, as it was referred to then) a massive selling point that the Microsoft suits wanted to point out was that, yep, you can lift up your own foot and see the bottom of a virtual shoe on-screen. Groundbreaking stuff.
For many, this was the beginning of the end for the motion control craze, and it almost single-handedly killed off the Kinect before it started. All because of a shoe. Video games are weird.
3) Microsoft forced to remove DRM-only (E3 2013)
Some announcements are bad–and then there’s Microsoft’s proposal to maintain an online-only status for their then fledgling Xbox One console, as well as negating the use of second-hand titles on the console. In fact, it was so bad that, just days later, president of Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, Don Mattrick, did a 180 and reversed the decision in a groveling blog post.
It was too late. It didn’t help that all instances of the news were reported alongside Mattrick’s smug, self-satisfying grin; this was a move that would hit gamers in the wallet and proved to be a step too far. Mattrick left the company a month later.
2) Ubisoft’s Battle Tag (E3 2010)
The Battle Tag reveal at Ubisoft’s conference in 2010 acts like the perfect grab bag of E3 meltdowns: Bored celebrity host? Check. Cringe-inducing actors trying to showcase a feeble product? Check. Complete silence from a crowd who would ordinarily cheer for anything? Check, check, and triple check.
I can’t even put into words just how awful this was. The video above will give you some idea – and will probably leave you open-mouthed in the process. Not surprisingly, it bombed on release but left a searing imprint of theater-school dropouts in our collective memory banks. Not cool, Ubi. Not cool.
1) Riiiiidge Racer (E3 2006)
In all honesty, Sony’s entire E3 conference in 2006 could have filled the list. Who could forget the ridiculous $599 price point misstep or that whole giant enemy crab thing that, I can assure you, wasn’t a drug-fuelled fever dream. Kaz Hirai’s unveiling of Ridge Racer on PSP, though, was the stuff of legend.
Encapsulating everything that went wrong with Sony’s 2006 presentation, the lukewarm reaction, stutters, and awkward silence were only punctured by the instant meme that was Riiiiidge Racer: the worst E3 announcement of all time.